Monday, June 07, 2010

Grass Cat

A bit of a diversion today. This is a response to this blog post by Sheila Tajima asking for pictures for the ASAP charity. I like a challenge so I thought I'd pick a photo and paint a picture. I decided to paint the cat as grass, though, partly because I wanted to explore different ways of painting complex vegetation. I'll add a few more details in a week or so when it's dry.

In other news I had an email from Jamie Durling, a curator of a future exhibition at The Lloyd Gill Gallery that will explore surrealism and dream imagery. He attached an excellently written essay that managed to sum up surrealism from its origins to the present day. Many sentences attracted my attention:

"...Today artists continue to be inspired by the movement and, in a world far less shockable, contemporary surrealism is often less interested in psychoanalysis and more interested in the aesthetic qualities of bizarre juxtapositions and depictions of the absurd..."

True. Such absurdity/nonsense is considered surrealism by most people perhaps. Of course that's not actual surrealism, which might never have actually existed at all in paint. I've certainly never exactly painted a dream, or even conveyed the story or idea of a dream, or tried to. Perhaps other surrealists did, once.

Surrealism is/was not nonsense and should not be. Such nonsense is simply bad art. There's nothing worse than a painting that is merely amazing. Such feelings of amazement are the result of the unexpected, nothing more. The nonsensical antics of Dali really did incredible damage to surrealism and surrealist imagery as an artform. The joke is that squillions of contemporary artists walk blindly into the same trap.

And today I did with my grass cat, which is a wholly meaningless folly, but ha! Folly is not always meaningless or indeed pointless, for today I was learning to paint the complex texture of grass in a new way. It's curious then that the real meaning of the painting was nothing to do with it's appearance, but its execution.

That aside, the essay reinforced to me that I must avoid the amazements and traps that "neosurrealists" and other bizarre sects fall into daily. I don't paint surrealism, but merely include symbols to convey meaning and feeling. Meaning should be discernible, and ideally apparent, although a range of clarity among paintings is fine. I could paint a winged ballerina standing tiptoe on an apple in the centre of a liquid gold ocean playing a harp, but it would be silly, whereas a man walking on the calm sea lifting a handful while channelling the clouds through the top of his head would be allegorical, a metaphor for emotional control and mastery of ones mind. I aim to paint that picture later this year.


Kathy said...

The grass cat is far-out!! Love it. As for surrealism, I have mixed feelings about the division between the strictest definition and the Dali-esque approach. Rather, I'd prefer fuzzy boundaries that encompass a broader range of interpretations. Although I don't like gimmicks, I do like imaginative constructs with ambiguous meanings. Art critics and museum curators need to categorize and label in order to make sense of the organic evolution of art over time, but (in my opinion) that's like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I like Dali and I like Sheeky!!

Anonymous said...

I too love your cat drawing! So original and well done. And I have a soft spot for cat people. :-)

Mark Sheeky said...

Kathy - Well put. I think you're right, as with so many things.

Pam - thanks. My cat has a soft spot for cat people too.